HALS, Frans
(b. 1580, Antwerpen, d. 1666, Haarlem)

Officers and Sergeants of the St Hadrian Civic Guard

c. 1633
Oil on canvas, 207 x 337 cm
Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem

Hals new tendency towards restraint is seen in the two large group portraits of civil guards made during the 1630s: the Officers and Sergeants of the St Hadrian Civic Guard of Haarlem (c. 1633) and the Officers and Sergeants of the St George Civic Guard Company (c. 1639), both in the Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem. The vivacity of the setting is already slightly subdued in the group portrait painted 1633 by the subordination of the figures to a horizontal band, and this horizontal accent completely dominates the arrangement of the figures in the group portrait painted 1639. In both group portraits the figures are set in the open air, but they lose rather than gain in plein-air quality. This is particularly true of the picture of 1639, which is dominated by a warm golden olive tone, while the one of 1633 still retains a good deal of the colouristic vivacity and charm of the 1620s, and also some of the compositional boldness and agitation of the earlier period.

The picture of 1639, in which Hals's self-portrait is to be seen, is the master's last representation of a civic guard group. The whole category virtually disappears in the Netherlands around the middle of the century. After the Treaty of Münster of 1648, which gave Holland de jure recognition in the councils of Europe, Dutch patricians preferred to be seen as dignified regents rather than military men.

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